Dermatology Textbook Guide

A photo taken by my former classmate, now Dr. Lai, illustrating all of the books it takes to make a physician.

A photo taken by my former classmate, now Dr. Lai, illustrating all of the books it takes to make a physician. I love how Wikipedia is the cherry on top :P

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about which dermatology textbooks I recommend for premeds, pre-PA students, nursing students, and dermatology residents. There are SO MANY resources out there, enough to make our heads spin, and which book you like entirely depends on your personal learning style. Here are some of the ones that I particularly like, along with some that a lot of my coresidents like, ordered by increasing amounts of experience in dermatology. Don’t forget to check out my other post on how I motivate myself through study blues. OK, here we go onto the books.

**EDIT: This isn’t a book but Dr. Rieder reminded me of one of my FAVORITE APPS OF ALL TIME: VisualDx. If your institution has a subscription then you are in luck. This app is a short synopsis of all the derm diagnoses along with a great collection of photos for each one. This is perfect for people in all levels of training from medical students to practicing dermatologists. Whenever I come across a disease I’m not too familiar with or even if I want to remind myself what some diseases look like I pop it into the VisualDx app and I get a quick synopsis along with photos of that condition. They also have a differential builder in which you input the patient’s age, sex, symptoms, skin findings, and they populate a list of potential diagnoses for you. This is a great tool to learn on the fly in clinic and to refresh your memory as you go along in your training!

Lookingbill and Marks’ Principles of Dermatology, 5e was the textbook given to me during my 3rd year medical school clerkship at Stanford. Going into my clerkship I had practically zero dermatology experience; we had maybe 5 intro lectures and that was it. During my 4 week rotation I was able to get through this book without too much difficulty. It was easy to read with great representative photos, and it actually helped me out in clinic and to understand didactic lectures. This is a wonderful primer to the field, covering all the major categories of diseases and treatments. I think this book is great for medical students going into rotations, pre-PA or nursing students.
Dermatology Essentials, 1e was the book I used all throughout my first year of dermatology residency. I started off the year wanting to jump into one of the two “Bibles” of dermatology (listed below – Bolognia and Andrews) but all diseases were so foreign to me that I ended up lost for hours in each chapter. This book, or “Baby Bolognia” as my coresidents and I call it, is much easier to digest for someone new to the field. It covers a lot of the same major topics as big Bolognia, but in much less detail. This is a great way to get acquainted with the material to set you up for being able to read more in-depth textbooks. I set a goal for myself to finish Baby Bolognia by the time of the in-service in February, and then the second half of first year and this year (my second year) I am focusing on more detailed textbooks.

Dermatology: Illustrated Study Guide and Comprehensive Board Review, or “Jain” as we affectionately call it, is the ultimate board review guide. It’s a no-nonsense, straight to the need-to-know, condensed study guide that was actually based off of Dr. Jain’s personal study guide that she made during residency.This book isn’t meant to be used as a primary source, because it doesn’t provide much framework; it assumes you already know the big picture and most diseases. It won’t be helpful for anyone without a dermatology background already. This guide helps to fill in the details, all those lovely nitty gritty details, that you will be tested on after residency. A bunch of people take notes in their copy of Jain to consolidate their resources in one place.

Dermatopathology: Expert Consult – Online and Print, 2e is a great resource for dermatopathology. If you haven’t guessed by now I’m a big fan of just enough detail but not enough to be overwhelming. Unless you’re a dermatology resident or a pathology resident you probably don’t need this textbook. I found dermpath very difficult and overwhelming to try to learn, but this book is a good companion to going through physical or electronic slides. Our program has weekly didactics in the multi headed scope room, and each week there’s a new theme (inflammatory diseases, sclerosing disorders, blistering disorders, cutaneous T or B cell lymphomas, etc.). Going through each chapter organized by themes in conjunction with didactics has helped a lot.
Dermatology: 2-Volume Set: Expert Consult Premium Edition – Enhanced Online Features and Print, 3e (Bolognia, Dermatology) is “Big Bolognia.” It’s the real deal, the holy grail of dermatology textbooks, loaded with details and high quality photos. Each chapter is structured the same, with an intro, history, epidemiology, pathophysiology, clinical features, dermatopathology, and treatment. It still takes me a while to get through each chapter but now that I have a foundation from 1st year, reading this text has become much easier. It is probably more detail than we really will ever be able to remember, but it’s a great text to read through at least once, and a great resource to have to refer back to in the future.

Andrews’ Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology, 12e is another text that dermatology residents read around the country. From what I’ve heard, people are either Bolognia people or Andrews people. I’m definitely a Bolognia person so I included the Andrews text here just as an alternative. It is structured in more of a free-form kind of way, without major subdivisions inside of the chapters. I personally find it a little harder to follow, but some of my colleagues swear by it. I remember interviewing at programs in which the residents read the entirety of Andrews during first-year orientation (O_O).

An Atlas of Dermoscopy, Second Edition by dermoscopy expert Dr. Marghoob is a great way to learn the basics of dermoscopy. I especially love all his cartoon figures of benign nevi vs. features that look dysplastic but are commonly benign vs. melanoma vs. BCC vs. solar lentigo vs. other conditions, the list goes on.



Would love to hear any recommendations or thoughts from other derm residents out there! I know the books we read are all so institution dependent so would love to hear what you prefer to read in this field.

6 Comments on Dermatology Textbook Guide

  1. Marilyn
    November 27, 2016 at 11:42 am (1 year ago)

    Thank you so much for writing this post! And I’m so glad I found your Instagram/website. I’m only a second year in naturopathic medical school, but I plan on focusing in derm once I graduate and start practicing. So far I’ve only purchased one derm book (Integrative Dermatology by Norman and Shenefelt) but I’ve been wanting to purchase more clinical-based textbooks and had no clue which one’s to get for starting out…until I came across this post. Thanks again!

    • Joyce
      November 27, 2016 at 12:10 pm (1 year ago)

      Thanks for your comment Marilyn! Glad that this article was useful. Hope you enjoy some of the texts!

  2. Yves
    January 21, 2017 at 12:08 am (1 year ago)

    Is Dermatology Essentials more of a study guide or a textbook like the Baby Fitz? How easy a read is it?


    • Joyce
      January 22, 2017 at 10:47 pm (1 year ago)

      It’s written more as bullet points but it contains all the major graphs / charts from big Bolognia, which is why I love it! I’m not familiar with baby Fitz but baby Bolognia is a very easy read. It is not in depth enough for boards studying but it’s a good overview and a good place to start without being too overwhelming.

  3. Viktoriia
    February 7, 2017 at 1:57 pm (1 year ago)

    Thank you a lot! You can’t even imagine how huge your help is :)
    I’m a 6 year medical student from Ukraine. Sure, we have lots of books on dermatology. But I want to read something not as old as we have in our libraries. So thank you for the list of books. I decided to start from the “Lookingbill and Mark’s Principles..”

    • Joyce
      February 7, 2017 at 2:05 pm (1 year ago)

      Great! Good luck!


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